The new Ohio Union has it all: grand ballrooms, a bronze Brutus, a bar and even love.
The new Union features a section devoted to couples that began their romances at the old Union. Along the railing overlooking the Great Hall are buckeye-leaf-adorned panels that feature names of couples who met at the old Union and have donated to the new Union.
Heather McGinnis, director of development for Student Life and the Ohio Union, and Tracy Stuck, assistant vice president for Student Life and director of the Ohio Union, came up with the idea, titled the Ohio Union Couples Project. The idea came while traveling the country talking to alumni about their experiences in the old Union.
“We realized, as we heard so many stories from alumni of their time in the building, that the alumni had either met their significant others there or they went on dates in the Ohio Union,” McGinnis said. “So as we heard those same stories over and over, we felt that we needed to tell that story in the building, and we designated a specific place in there to be able to tell that little bit of history.”
Along with the individual railing panels, there is an area outside the grand ballroom that features a larger panel giving a description of the project. Eight couples are currently featured in the project, but up to 20 couples can be recognized on the panels.
One couple being recognized is 1998 OSU graduates Jennifer Nelson Carney and Ohio Rep. John Carney. Both spent a majority of their time at the old Union as members of Undergraduate Student Government. Carney served two terms as USG President, and Nelson Carney was on his cabinet. Nelson Carney said the couple was happy to contribute to the new Union.
“I mean, we spent so much time as undergraduates in the [old] Union. It just made sense that if we were going to be a part of building something new that it would be the new Union,” Nelson Carney said.
The couple heard about the project through McGinnis after she interviewed them for a promotional video about the new Union and asked if they would give a financial contribution to the project.
Another couple that will be featured is 1965 graduate Pam Workman and 1966 graduate Tom Workman. They met in the old Union in 1964 on the elevator and both spent time in the building as members of Student Senate. Tom was president of the senate in 1965, and Pam was the office manager for Student Senate.
Tom said he thinks the Couples Project adds to the new Union’s character.
“[The project] personalizes Ohio State for those who lived it and for those who follow and experience it as we did,” Tom said. “Ohio State is not a huge, cold, impersonal institution. It is made up of great and good students, teachers and administrators who give it life and goodness every day.”
Both couples contributed $2,500 to the project and will be recognized with a plaque. However, not everyone willing to donate money can get a personal railing panel. McGinnis stressed that the panels are not for sale and said they are reserved for those couples who spent a considerable amount of time in the old Union and have contributed significantly to the new Union.
The project is ongoing, and McGinnis said she would like to use the remainder of the space to recognize diverse couples.